The vast majority of British voters have zero interest in Prime Minister’s Questions. Nor, once the initial novelty had worn off, would they have any more interest in watching People’s Questions. It’s only politicians who think the weekly interrogation of politicians is of major national significance.

Dan Hodge

Do we need a Peoples’ PMQs?

UK Labour Party leader Ed Miliband recently floated the idea of a weekly “public question time” where an audience representative of the country would question the prime minister on any issue of the day. Miliband was a bit short on details regarding how this would work. Apart from stating that the audience should be representative of the country, the only other details he provided was that the public PMQs should be held in parliament at least every two weeks, but preferably weekly. On the surface, it’s an interesting idea, but it also raises a number of questions. First of all, how would these people – representative of the country – be selected? Would it be a completely random process, you […]

Coalition government and constraints on the PM’s prerogative powers

The UK House of Lords Select Committee on Constitution has been conducting an inquiry on The Constitutional Implications of Coalition Government. For anyone interested in parliamentary conventions, government formation and other related issues, this is absolutely fascinating stuff. On 9 October 2013, Professor Lord Norton of Louth and Lord Donoughue appeared as witnesses before the committee. It was quite interesting, enlivened somewhat by Lord Donoughue’s staunch dislike of the very idea of coalition government. In fact, he repeatedly urged the Committee to stress in their final report the many advantages of alternatives to coalition since, as he put it, “I fear that a younger generation will begin to assume that if they do not get a majority, they must have […]

The Westminster System of Parliamentary Government

I frequently refer to the “Westminster system of parliamentary government” in posts, and thought it might be a good idea to fully explain how the Westminster system of government works. The Westminster System of Parliamentary Government The Westminster System is a democratic system of government modelled after that of the United Kingdom, as used in the Palace of Westminster, the location of the UK parliament. The system is a series of conventions and procedures for operating a legislature. It is used, or was once also used, in most Commonwealth and ex-Commonwealth nations. There are other parliamentary systems, for example those of various European countries, whose procedures differ considerably from the Westminster system. Aspects of the Westminster system include: a head […]

Parliaments, PMOs and Social Media

On Tuesday, 31 January 2012, Education Secretary Michael Gove appeared before the House of Commons Education Committee. It is the Committee’s mandate to monitor the policy, administration and spending of the Department for Education and its associated arms length bodies, and having the Minister give evidence allows them to scrutinize his work, performance and policies. This in and of itself is not remarkable. What is different about this meeting is that in advance of the session, the Committee asked the public to suggest questions via twitter. By all accounts, this rather novel approach was a huge success: “We have been overwhelmed by how many there have been… For the last few days, there have just been hundreds and hundreds and […]

Keyword post: Short answers to various queries

The following are answers to questions based on recent keyword search activity which has led people to this blog. 1. How many signatures does an e-petition require for it to be debated in the UK Parliament? First of all, there is no guarantee that any petition will be debated in Parliament. Under the UK Government’s new e-petitions scheme, if an e-petition gets 100,000 signatures that will only guarantee that it will be referred to the Backbench Business Committee for consideration for debate in the House of Commons, however, the Committee is free to consider scheduling a debate on any petition, regardless of the number of signatures it receives. In other words, garnering 100,000 signatures will not guarantee a debate, and garnering […]

Parlour games?

The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt recently wrote that the ongoing phone-hacking scandal and Prime Minister David Cameron’s closeness to central players in the Murdoch empire (e.g. Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson) leaves him vulnerable to having Nick Clegg “pull the plug” not on the coalition, but on Cameron himself: This is where the eyes of Lib Dems really light up. If damaging details emerge Clegg could go to Cameron and say that his party is deeply committed to the coalition but it can no longer serve under him as prime minister. At this point Cameron has to decide: does he sacrifice his career to save the coalition, paving the way for another Tory to take his place as prime minister, or […]